First Known When Lost: How To Live, Part Twenty-Nine: Some Things Never Change

Last thing at night
he steps outside to breathe
the smell of winter.
The stars, so shy in summer,
glare down
from a huge emptiness.
In a huge silence he listens
for small sounds.  His eyes
are filled with friendliness.
What’s history to him?
He’s an emblem of it
in its pure state.
And proves it.  He goes inside.
The door closes and the light
dies in the window.
Norman MacCaig, in Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2005).


Thoughts on T’ien-chin Bridge
The countless great lords and statesmen of past regimes —
later ages know them merely as a list of names.
Only the water under T’ien-chin Bridge
goes on year after year,  making the same sound.
Shao Yung (1011-1077) (translated by Burton Watson), in Burton Watson, The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century (Columbia University Press 1984), page 336.

Source: First Known When Lost: How To Live, Part Twenty-Nine: Some Things Never Change

  1. A great poem from one of my favourite Scottish poets, Norman MacCaig, a poet with a true feeling for the land, as exhibited here, his crofter contentedly living the life of his forefathers. Must acquire MacCaig’s collected poems someday.

    Thanks for running this one, Donna.

    Take care,


    • Hello, Paul. Happy to find you here and to have found Norman MacCaig — my first acquaintance with his poetry. I will look for his Collected Poems, thanks to your mention. Take best care possible.


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